Licenced clinical therapist Dr. Ramani Durvasula creates YouTube content educating people on spotting the signs of narcissistic behavior, and breaking down the tools and techniques which narcissists use to manipulate people. In her most recent post, Durvasula addresses the notion of “toxic positivity.”
Often, toxic positivity is a trait exhibited by the person who is in a relationship with a narcissist; the belief that a positive mindset is the best way to deal with problems, even when they are being gaslighted or lied to. However, Durvasula explains that narcissists can also be toxically positive—and this is where things can get really dangerous.
Because narcissists tend to be grandiose, and live in a world in which they perceive everything to be wonderful, they have little time for other people’s problems. “Many narcissists may take offense at you having a bad day and bringing your gray cloud into their sunshiney day,” says Durvasula. “A narcissist might say to you, ‘why are you always so negative, I’m in a good mood, I don’t want your negativity near me.'”
“Narcissistic people like to set the emotional thermostat in the room,” she continues. “They want things to be great all the time, and they want people to mirror their artificially grandiose, positive worldview. When they ask you how you are, what they want to hear is that everything is great… That’s the only answer they find acceptable.”
Durvasula has found that frequently, in a narcissistic relationship, the only person with freedom to express any kind of negative emotion is the narcissist. “It’s the ultimate in control,” she says.
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And if somebody responds to that question by recounting a problem they’re experiencing, the narcissist (unable to take stock of their own privilege or fortunate position) may well find a way to blame that person for their own bad luck, saying they don’t have a positive attitude. And this isn’t exclusive to romantic relationships: it can happen in families, friendships, and at work.
“Because narcissists are responsible for most of the misery around them in many cases, they don’t see the misery storms they create,” she says. “So they blithely walk through the world believing it’s good, and fair, and just, mostly because they bully people into submission and people just go along with them.”
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